Photos: courtesy of Césaire.
One thing that women the world over can agree on is that the search for the perfect partner is fraught with its share of trials and errors. The urge to collect can be too tempting (and enjoyable), since, let’s face it, different occasions beg for appropriate company. Showing up with a flashy, recognizable number at a company benefit will have your professional circle questioning your judgment and taste; but tote along an oversize, understated friend to a glitzy, packed soirée and you’ll feel weighed down all night. I am, of course, talking about purses here.
The pull of trends in handbag fashion can leave your head spinning. With a market built around the production of a handful of must-have bags each season (usually sold out before they hit stores) and price tags proportionate to their scarcity, I am still astonished at how many women lust obsessively after the same walking-paychecks they saw so-and-so wearing. Several rungs down the originality ladder, we have the glaringly recognizable monogrammed status symbols, clutched feverishly by schoolgirls and professionals alike in subway cars and gritty bars everywhere.
Stéphanie Césaire’s boutique line of custom designs, Césaire, comes as a welcome relief to those of us looking for the timeless elegance of a luxury bag, without falling into either category described above. After years spent collaborating with the likes of Sonia Rykiel, Karl Lagerfeld and Kenzo, Césaire was yearning for an outlet for some of her more original inspirations, a place where she didn’t have to forsake elements of her vision to the gods of ‘Grande Maison’ commercialism. Her specialty: versatile and elegant arm candy that leaves you feeling ahead of the curve without falling into trendy cliché – the anti-‘It-Bag’ if you will.
Walking into the cozy Césaire boutique, nestled between the Tuilleries and the rue Saint-Honoré right by Concorde, I was first struck by the line’s diversity– a slouchy Virginie in butter-like deer here, a structured Bettina in croco-calf there, a sassy Gavroche beckoning over yonder… As we chatted and Stéphanie explained to me how she hand picks her Italian leather providers and her all-French artisan team of assemblers, I played the mental match-up game – which bag would I pick for which friend. Though personally torn between the Gavroche and the ethereal Titi, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the purses in this store would not only have matched the diverse personalities of the women in my life, they would have truly complimented each of their personal styles and unique approaches to elegance.
And that, I believe, is the mark of a great partner.
Césaire, 6 rue St. Florentin, Paris 75001, 01 42 97 43 43